Adding a few spices to his dishes would help prevent premature death, according to research.
Scientists at the IRCCS Mediterranean Neurological Institute in Pozzilli, Italy, examined pepper consumption in more than 22,800 adults.
They found that people who ate spicy foods more than four times a week were less likely to die from coronary heart disease (when blood vessels narrow due to a buildup of plaque) over the next eight years, and this up to 44%.
The risk of dying from cerebrovascular diseases, such as stroke, was also reduced by 61%, according to the results. These diseases have an impact on the blood vessels that supply the brain.
The Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, vegetables and fish, has long been celebrated for its beneficial properties for the heart.
« Peppers are a fundamental part of our food culture », said study author Professor Licia Iacoviello.
« We see them hanging from Italian balconies and even depicted in jewelry making ».
« Over the centuries, beneficial properties of all kinds have been associated with its consumption, mainly through anecdotes, traditions, and sometimes even magic ».
« It is important that research takes this topic seriously, with rigor and providing scientific evidence ».
So the scientists looked at the participants in the Moli-sani study. Launched in March 2005, this analysis looked at the health and genetics of approximately 25,000 inhabitants of the Molise region in southern Italy.
1,236 participants died in about 8 years.
Death was much more likely in participants who never or rarely ate chili peppers than in those who ate it several times a week.
The results, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, show that chili peppers were less likely to die from various forms of heart disease (34%) and from all causes (23%) during the follow-up period.
Spicy foods were especially beneficial for participants who did not have high blood pressure at first.
But consuming the peppers appeared to be beneficial for all participants regardless of the nature of their diet.
« Interestingly, the protection against the risk of death was not related to the type of diet that the different participants followed » said lead author Dr. Marialaura Bonaccio.
« In other words, one person can eat a healthy Mediterranean diet, another eat less healthily, but they will both benefit from the protective effect of chili ».
Like peppers, chili peppers are part of the Capsicum family.
« We know that the different plants of the Capsicum species are effective in protecting our health, even when consumed in different ways around the world », said Professor L. Iacoviello.
Capsicum species are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients. Spicy foods can also promote weight loss by « igniting » our metabolism.